Friday, July 31, 2009

2006 Vins de Pays Cotes de Brian Clos du Gravillas "Le Rendez-Vous du Soleil"

This wine came to my attention at K&L in San Francisco last weekend when a friend of mine asked a clerk for something earthy from France. He suggested this bottle, saying it had that dirty taste she was looking for.

Mix of 30 percent each cab, syrah and carignan, with 5 percent each of mourvedre and grenache. Aged 25 months (in what, I wonder? Bottle just says the length of time).

In appearance this wine is dark and murky, with cranberry-tinged edges. The nose has an old, musty earth smell as well as black fruit scents.

In the glass, I got dense currant flavors and blackberry preserve. I wanted to write down jammy because this felt so thick on my tongue, but it wasn't overly sweet, which I typically associate with the "jam" description.

This wine has a rich mouthfeel and was hard to interpret at first. I detected several strains of fruit on my palate, but separating them in my head was difficult because of the weight of the overall wine. Tangy, almost bitter tannins bring the wine to a finish.

This is certainly a beast of a wine, and is a good example of how something can be powerful but not overdone with oak, vanilla, and gooey sweetness. Not bad for $15.99. I have had dirtier wines, but if you're not sure if that's a flavor you're into, this could be a good entry bottle.

Friday, July 24, 2009

2000 Crociani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG - Reserva

Picked up this 9-year old bottle of wine at the Wine Mine and really enjoyed it. Clocking in at 13.5 percent alcohol, this mixture of Prugnolo Gentile (75 percent), Canaiolo nero (15 percent) and Mammolo (10 percent) is aged for two and a half years in oak barrels and then six months in the bottle before being released.

It's color is a beautiful brick burnt red, most likely due to it's age. Even my non-drinking partner noticed how different in appearance it looked from other wines I've had recently (mostly younger, purplish hued wines).

On the nose I found burnt rubber, dung, and some floral accents, which blossomed into a larger part of the scent after being opened for a few days.

In the mouth, I got a tart but floral taste, favoring violets and ending with a lifesaver cherry component. Very light body. Overall I enjoyed the fruit in this wine, and described it on the whole to a cool breeze in August, compared to much heavier American reds I've been drinking.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines are mostly made with Sangoviese, and shouldn't be confused with the grape varietal Montepulciano.

Tasting notes from the producer: "Ruby red colour with orange hints, delicate and intense bouquet with pronounced notes of violet. Dry, rounded, harmonious, full of fruit with a lovely mouth’filling finish."

Friday, July 10, 2009

K Vintners Syrah flight

I've been waiting for months to attend an event at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant this week to meet Charles Smith of K Vintners, the rock star of Washington winemaking.

I've been able to acquire some of his lower priced wines (see reviews here), and wanted to try the upper echelon and see what all the commotion is about.

The day came for the big event, and I was all ramped up to try the flight of his single vineyard Syrahs and speak to the man himself. Hours before I was about to leave my office, however, I got pulled into a work event for the night. Oh well.

Disappointed that I couldn't meet Smith, I still hoped to try some of his wines, and the next day, I went over to the wine bar to see what was left.

"Do you still have the K Vintners' flight available?" I asked the bartender with all the eagerness of a child asking a Best Buy clerk if some hot video game was still in stock the day after the hordes of other kids waited in lines for hours to buy every copy.

"Hm, let me see," he said, gazing over the bottles that were in front of him. "Yeah, we can do a mini flight."


The full flight would have consisted of five wines and cost $35. What I got was three generous pours, and probably half an ounce of another one, for $22. I think all of my pours finished off their bottles, so I wasn't expecting much in terms of quality, though with wines purported to be this big, I was thinking a day after opening might do them some good.

I started with the most expensive of the offerings, the 2006 Royal City Syrah, which was selling for $105 for a bottle at the shop (you can get it for $80 from K Vintners's website).

The first thing you notice about the bottle is its kick-ass label. All of Charles Smith's wines employ a striking black and white contrast on their label, with huge letters and a goth-like image. On Royal City, you see a jeweled crown with a skull chopping on two bones on the front of it.

If you look for information about this wine on the K Vintners site, all you get is a blurb review from Paul Gregutt: “100 Point Wine…Rich scents of purple fruit, smoked meat, cedar, lead pencil, moist earth and so on proclaim a wine with genuine gravitas…..the finest syrah I have ever tasted from Washington State, and in fact as good as any young syrah I have ever tasted..." (April 2009). WOW! Best Washington Syrah ever tasted! That's pretty awesome!

Well, what I got wasn't as great. In fact it seemed too huge, too sweet. The wine had a dark ruby red color, and a moderate nose of ripe fruit. It tasted like sugary sweet candy, red and black berries so ripe they're oozing juice. The finish starts to fade after a few seconds, and then BAM! a turbo boosts kicks it into another gear for more what seemed like minutes.

This velvety mouth-coater was definitely the big boy of the tasting, bringing wood and vanilla notes as well. I just don't see it lasting a while (my hopes of getting one of these bottles and socking it away for a couple of decades until my daughter hite 21 were dashed after this tasting).

The bartender agreed with me. "Point chasers," she said, and then professed her love of dirty Rhone Syrahs.

The other wines in the flight seemed smaller in stature to this one. The 2007 "The Deal" Syrah from Wahluke Slope, priced at $37, was almost cartoonishly sweet. On the nose I found red liquorish, charred wood and some green component I couldn't put my finger on; in the glass I described the wine as having Willy Wonka flavors. Just super candish, sweet berries, and some heat on the finish along with a bit of spice.

Since I only tasted about an ounce or two of the Phil Lane Syrah, I'm not going to give it a review here.

The wine I liked the best was the 2007 Morrison Lane, from Walla Walla, priced at $41.

Tasting the "cleanest" of the wines, it had nice blackberries and blueberries, with a juicy center that seems to pop out on your palate. Hints of cranberries and raspberries as well. Medium, dry tannins were balanced against smooth acidity.

Didn't get much of a nose on this one.

Now, Charles Smith has said his K Vintners line up is meant to age, and his Charles Smith wines are for consuming now. Since they're much cheaper and more appealing, I'm probably going to stick with those for the time being, though I still want to try his K Vintner's Ovide, which Gary Vaynerchuk sounded estatic about on the Thunder Show in October.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Old Soul Company (Sacramento)

I was in Sacramento last week for work and while there set about to find some good coffee. Using ManSeekingCoffee as a guide, I ventured into Old Soul Co. located near 17th and L streets and found coffee delight.

The cafe looks like an old warehouse, as it's a huge open space with a Diedrich roasting machine in the corner, a scattering of seats, couches and tables, and the main operation in the middle. Fresh baked items tantalize from their racks behind the counter.

On my first visit, I had a shot of their "sauce" espresso blend, which had light brown crema, with no tiger stripping. Bright nose with grassy notes. In the cup, I found it to be thick an juicy, with tropical fruit notes, and a medium acidity, with no bitterness.

I also had a cup of their Ugandan Mt. Elgan Bugisu drip, but couldn't make out much after the espresso coated my tongue with its richy goodness. Old Soul describes it as "Beautiful subtle fruits with a candied sweetness. Thick and syrupy with a cream-coated softness throughout the cup."

I took a bag of the coffee home to evaluate, and so far, found it to give off a strong black cherry scent all the way through from the beans, in the grinds, and in the fresh brewed coffee. Bright, fresh cherries were persistent in the cup, to the point where I wrote down it was like liquid cherry pie. Initially creamy on the attack, the coffee's acidity picks up through the middle and lingers on the finish. I got an odd chalk dust flavor at the end, but I'm not sure if that was a one time deal or something I'll find again.

As an espresso, this coffee presents milkshake-thick crema, lively acidity and notes of caramel, cherries and layers of other exotic fruits I couldn't quite pick apart.

Old Soul is definitely one of those "third wave" coffee roasters bringing customers medium to light roasted single origin coffees. They seem to really care about what they do, and in my conversations with them, are trying to develop a barista scene and culture of coffee love in Sacramento. If you're up there, check them out.